Why Common Law Marriages Have to Be Recognized in Other States

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Contrary to what most people think, there is more than one way to get married. If you do not choose to have an extravagant wedding ceremony, or even if you do not take the trip to the courthouse or city hall to get a marriage certificate, you might still be technically married in the state of South Carolina. This is because South Carolina is one of the few states in the U.S. that recognizes what is called “common law marriage,” which does not require either of these official formalities to happen, in order for you and your significant other to be considered married.

What is Common Law Marriage?


Common law marriage is the legal marriage of two people, even if they have not taken the formal steps normally necessary to tie the knot. You can be common law married to someone in the state of South Carolina if you and that other person meet the eligibility requirements, and have been cohabitating, have an intent to be married to each other, and hold yourselves out to others as being married.

The Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution


Even though South Carolina is one of the few places in the United States to recognize the validity of a common law marriage, if you are common law married to someone, you will not suddenly be “unmarried” once you cross the state line into one of the states that does not recognize common law marriage.


The reason for this is the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution of the United States. This clause, in Article IV of the Constitution, requires states to give “full faith and credit” to the laws and legal proceedings of the other states in the nation. This is done to prevent states from refusing to acknowledge or enforce the laws of their neighboring states, which would have allowed people to get away from legal problems by simply packing up and moving. Instead, other states have to blindly defer to the laws of another state when they apply to a case.

Other States Must Recognize Common Law Marriages Formed in South Carolina


One of these laws that other states must give “full faith and credit” to is the law in South Carolina that allows for common law marriages. Because this law marries a couple under a certain set of circumstances, it would be unfair for it not to apply in another state, if that couple decided to move there.


Therefore, because of the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution, if you are married by common law in South Carolina, you will continue to be common law married if you leave the state, even if you go to one of the many states that does not recognize common law marriage.


Family Law Attorneys Can Help With Issues Surrounding Common Law Marriages


Common law marriages are tricky, and can surprise many people who are not aware of them. Contact the family law attorneys in Greenville at office of Elliott Frazier Law Firm, LLC for help.

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